Careers in Mexico, what kind of opportunities are out there being a foreigner?
An increasing number of professionals and skilled workers are turning to Mexico to find new employment prospects and a change in lifestyle. With the pace of life being slower, the people’s attitude to new arrivals warmer, and the cost of living generally lower than in Europe and on a par with the US and Canada, the attractions are evident:
- The taste of a different culture.
- Reduced stress and a quieter working life.
- More leisure time.
- Better climate and surroundings.
- A career enhancing, cross-cultural commercial experience.
Major areas for employment mirror the country’s significant economic areas. Generally speaking, the foreign-owned companies in the larger industrial sectors are most likely to offer careers to non-nationals.
- Tourism constitutes 16% of foreign earnings. It is sited mainly in Acapulco, along the Bayar California and around the Yucatan Peninsula. Historically rich areas, such as former Mayan and Aztec communities, are also tourism sites. The sector employs 2.6 million people, about 10% of the native workforce.
- Mining activity reflects the country’s natural resources. The country has the fifth largest oil reserves around the Gulf of Mexico and is the world’s leading exporter of silver.
- Manufacturing, in the form of mineral refineries, textile factories, food processing plants and car factories, is to be found in and around Mexico City. Close to the US border is an area of industrial development, where foreign-owned companies pursue tax benefits and low employment costs by importing raw materials and exporting finished products.
- Agriculture employs about 25-30% of the workforce, most of who are working on a small scale basis. Export crops such as maize, fruit, vegetables, coffee, cotton, tobacco and the tequila plant are usually farmed by large companies.
- Other industries include banking, telecommunications / IT, chemicals, iron and steel, clothing, petroleum, motor vehicles, food and beverages, textiles and tobacco.
- Education is a smaller business area, with many private schools and language centres based in Mexico. Most private establishments teach at least half of their lessons in English, including mathematics and science subjects.
Finding Work: Mexican Careers
You can either work within the country for a certain period of time, or you can move to the country to settle. It goes without saying that visa and work permit requirements will be different for either case.
If you have specialist skills and experience in the major industrial sectors or tourism, you can be employed under contract in the offices or factory belonging to one of the large multi-national businesses. You would then be reporting to local management. There are also plenty of opportunities for business support services around Mexico City, with job opportunities in business development and consultation, IT and Internet related services. Being bilingual will help you to find employment. English plus another language, especially Spanish, but also French, German or Italian, will be useful with the many European companies established in Mexico.
If you have specialist skills, you are likely to find employment from a distance, either via an employment agency or via the increasing number of web sites dedicated to employment in Mexico. Executives can also go through the international headhunting agencies that have sprung up in the country. These require a fee for registration.
If you decide to move before finding such work, you are well advised to register with local employment agencies. Because who you know is as important as what you know, it is also worth registering with your respective embassies, chambers of commerce and any social clubs you can find, in order to start networking. Also read the daily classifieds in Mexico’s newspapers and their respective web sites.
Other people make longer term decisions to set up a small business in the country. The types of business are often tourism-related, such as bars or restaurants. There are some jobs for those who simply turn up to ask for work, although these openings are limited.
Alternatively, if you hold a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) Certificate you could opt to work in one of the many educational establishments. This is particularly popular with younger people and graduates.
Some people go to Mexico to take part in environmental, community and social projects. By doing so, they help local people by sharing their knowledge and experience, while gaining unique and authentic access to the local ways of life, culture and language.
Moving to Mexico
As many American, British and Japanese businesses have offices or manufacturing facilities in the country, it is common for their managers and senior managers to be ‘outposted’ to Mexico for a year or two. This means that many foreign professionals are arriving in Mexico annually.
Different kinds of work permits are available, depending on what you’re doing and for how long. If you are going to be working in the country for more than a year, you will need to inform the tax authorities. You will need to apply for the required visas, although a major international employer will help you with these. That said, moving to Mexico from the US, Canada or Western Europe can be a complex procedure, so read a lot in advance. There are many websites and books available on the subject.